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*Maple*

Where can I begin? Thereís so much I can and want to say, for this story affects me so. Except, perhaps "story" isnít the correct word, for this is a true story and not my own. This is a short biography of a young woman who lived for such a short time and felt just a glimmer of happiness with a whole multitude of sorrow and pain. Her life has made me ponder my own existence, made me live life to the fullest, for each moment, for you never know when precious life will be taken away from you. Although I donít know her well, she has influenced me in more ways than people I have known all my life have; they just simply exist. This is her biography, that she told some of when she was alive, and would have told the rest of if she wasnít dead. This is Maple.

Maple was born on June 23rd, 1974, ten years before me minus the one day after (I was born June 22nd, 1984). It would seem that she had a semi-happy childhood, until age 12 when her father committed suicide. Then, when she was 15, she and her mother were in a tragic car accident, and although Maple lived, her mother did not. I canít imagine what losing my parents would be like, although I admit that losing my parents is my greatest fear. I donít know how I would be able to go on. But Maple did.

When Maple was 23, she was brutally raped. She was out running near her college campus and some men in a van asked her for directions. Once she gave them the directions, they grabbed her, stuffed her in the van, and handcuffed and gagged her. Then the van sped away, with her trapped inside with the men. But the moment the van stopped and her feet touched the ground, Maple tried to run. But she was tackled from behind, and received a slice across her face with a knife as punishment. As she described it:

I didn't get far when I was tackled from behind. Oh how it hurt. I was told that it was a stupid thing to do and that I would have to be punished. That was when the knife came out. I remember the searing pain as it cut through the tender skin of my face.

The five men took her into an old abandoned building and took turns raping her, slicing her with the knife if she didnít follow their every demand. When they finally finished, Maple was bleeding furiously and they reasoned that she was too weak to escape. However, they made sure that she wouldnít:

But just in case one came back and lifted my leg, I felt the knife cut through my ankle and felt my Achilles tendon retract up inside my leg. With that done, they left.

Nonetheless, Maple was able to painfully make her way out of the building, and finding an old pipe by the building, she made it to the street. Then:

I was still concentrating on walking and living when the car pulled up. I heard a scream, I turned and saw a man running towards me and a woman leaning against a car. I was terrified that I was going to be hurt again and tried to run, but I fell. I cringed as the man reached me. I heard his soothing voice tell me that he wasn't going to hurt me and that everything was going to be okay now. I started to cry again. He called to the woman to call an ambulance and the police and to get the blanket from the car. She came with the blanket and they wrapped me in it. I looked into her face, there was tears running down her cheeks. I silently thanked God for them coming, they saved my life.

Soon the police arrived, and the policeman, David, was someone Maple knew, the best friend of her partner, Mike. Both of them were crying, but Maple still was able to ask him for a request:

I looked up at him and said "David, please don't let me die like this" He was crying by now, but promised me that he wasn't going to let me die. I felt my eyes closing and then David's voice telling me I had to keep them open. I just couldn't.

Maple woke up in the hospital, having lost over half of her blood supply and undergoing many transfusions, having been resuscitated twice, and having been in a coma for three days. She stayed in the hospital for 12 weeks, receiving 1200 stitches in her body, 400 of them in her face. Her partner Mike was at her side the whole time, promising her no matter how long it took her to return to normal, he would wait. Maple talked to a psychiatrist who convinced her that she did nothing to bring on the attack and was in no way to blame. She gave her statement to the police, described the men, and pointed them out in mugshot scrapbooks. When the police brought in the men, they discovered that one was on parole after serving two years of a seven year sentence for the rape and murder of a 14 year old girl. Thankfully, all five men were, in the end, convicted and are now serving 25 years to life in prison.

Maple recovered physically quickly, but she was impatient when her emotions didnít mend quite as easily. All her memories haunted her every day, and it was hard for her to deal with. One third of all rape victims receive PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) sometime in their life, and Maple was one of them. When she couldnít get better emotionally very fast, she became depressed. Here is a poem she wrote:

Memories
The memory never leaves
of what they left behind.
The grief and sorrow
the bitterness and blame.

The memory never leaves
of what they did that day.
The humiliation and pain
the degradation and shame.

The memory never leaves
of what they took away.
No longer naive, sheltered or pure
No longer innocent, safe or sure.

The memory never leaves
no matter how hard I try.
It will haunt me until I die.

Maple felt that she had failed and that she would never be able to get over what had happened. So, she chose to commit suicide. Luckily, her attempt failed, for Maple was just looking for a way out, and didnít really want to die. She strove to get better for herself, her friends, and Mike. Her depression came and went in waves, and occasionally she had to be hospitalized for stress. But she came out stronger every time.

Then, Mike proposed to her on New Yearís Eve. That was the happiest day of her life. Mike had been her savior after the rape, and they were truly in love. They were going to be married in June, and Maple was pregnant.

But Mike and Maple never married. Maple was killed in a car accident on May 2nd, 1999. And a drunk driver had been behind the wheel of the car that killed her. Maple wasnít killed instantly, though. As her friend Tiana said:

Maple was still alive when the ambulance arrived, and sure enough, Maple fought till the end. There was no way she was giving up all she had worked for without a fight. And fight she did. They did all they could to keep her alive, but I guess this time, Maple had suffered enough, and someone finally realized she needed a rest.

So that is Maple and her life. To best sum up this tribute that I somehow felt inspired to write, just to get it out of me and on to the paper like I usually do with my own problems and thoughts, I will end with another thing about Maple that Tiana said:

So her body was taken away, and her physical features will be no more, but her spirit will live on forever. For Maple was a survivor. No, Maple was a liver. We will all remember Maple for as long as we live, for Maple was our friend, our supporter, our hero.





We love you, Maple. Wherever you may be, remember that we will always love you. Forever.





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